If Obama’s champions are to be believed, he is a subtle strategic thinker with a deep understanding of history. So no, his efforts to radically remake our relationship with Israel isn’t a reflection of ignorance or a lack of familiarity with the basics of the conflict.
First, let me just say that I hope Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post is wrong and that President Obama has no intention of making a dramatic break with Israel in the coming months. But alas, the story he tells is very convincing. According to Diehl, the Obama administration is getting ready to back a U.N. Security Council resolution that would, in his words, “mandate the solution to the questions Israelis and Palestinians have been unable to agree upon for decades, such as the future status of Jerusalem.” Why does this matter? If Israel rejects peace terms imposed on it by outsiders, the effort to turn the Jewish homeland into a pariah state will gain enormous ground. This is a consequence that the president must fully understand. If Obama’s champions are to be believed, he is a subtle strategic thinker with a deep understanding of history. So no, his efforts to radically remake our relationship with Israel isn’t a reflection of ignorance or a lack of familiarity with the basics of the conflict. If the president chooses to pursue this dangerous course, let no American who values our alliance with Israel, or for that matter our national honor, ever forget it.
Second, I had a recent conversation with one of America’s foremost strategic thinkers, and he made a compelling point about the dream of a two-state solution: far from putting an end to anti-Zionist hatred in the region, it would likely inflame it. The compromises the Palestinian leadership would have to make to establish a sovereign state in the West Bank and Gaza (on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes, on territory, and much else) would prove fatal to its legitimacy. Moreover, to Palestinian nationalists, a truncated state that covers a fifth of Mandatory Palestine is not even close to an end goal. This new state will almost immediately be engulfed in a civil war, which would attract many of the Islamist fighters currently drawn to Iraq and Syria. Has Obama given this frighteningly realistic scenario any real thought? If he has, well, does he fret about it even slightly? I can attest to the fact that many Israelis, Benjamin Netanyahu very much included, think about it all the time.